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Three years after enacting a law requiring drivers to use hands-free cell phone technology, the California Legislature sought to further the safety of all on the road. However, the Legislature's proposed increases for distracted driving fines ultimately led to the bill's veto.

According to state senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), the hands-free law "significantly" lowered the number of fatal accidents in California. Statistics cited by The Daily Journal support Sen. Simitian's claim; during the first year California's hands-free law was in effect, the number of vehicle accidents dropped 20 percent and the number of fatalities fell by approximately 700. Yet, even though AAA Automobile Club of Southern California and the California Office of Traffic Safety estimate that between 60 and 70 percent of drivers comply with the hands-free law, fatal accidents still occur as a result of distracted driving.

In an effort to further deter drivers from texting or talking on cell phones without hands-free technology, the Legislature passed a law that would increase the fines for violations. The fines for first offenses would rise from $20 to $50, and subsequent offenses would increase from $50 to $100. In addition, a point would be added to drivers' licenses for subsequent violations - that may result in increased insurance premiums for the driver.


The Contra Costa County District Attorney's office recently announced charges against a 70-year-old man who allegedly lost control of his pick-up truck while driving drunk, hitting and killing a female pedestrian.

Ruel Sasser faces three felony charges: vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving with a blood-alcohol level above .08 and driving under the influence while causing injury.

According to, witnesses said after the crash Sasser was too drunk to stand after his vehicle jumped the curb, hit the victim and ran into a tree. His blood alcohol level was .15, almost twice the legal limit.

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